Can you eat silverthorn berries?
Do they taste good?
The eleagnus family has plenty of edibles in it, though they’re not well known. The best-known edible is the goumi berry – but the most common plant you’ll see around central and north Florida is the “silverthorn,” also known as Eleagnus pungens. If you’ve wondered “are silverthorn berries edible,” this post is for you.
Finding and Eating Silverthorn Berries
Because we’ve had a mild winter, the berries are popping up a bit earlier than usual. Silverthorn berries are normally a February fruit, but I got a few ripe ones at the end of January. It’s hard to beat something that makes fruit so early, stands the cold, and stays evergreen. Though most people grow silverthorn as an ornamental hedge plant, it’s a good edible and a good nitrogen fixer. Plant it in lousy soil and it will still thrive.
I’ve got them growing near my citrus trees and as they grow bigger, I’ll chop them back and use the trimmings for mulch. That way they’re simultaneously feeding the ground with their roots and with what I drop. Win-win.
The fruits taste like a tart-sweet cherry. Quite nice. If you don’t have any of these yet, go buy a few. They’re lovely, fast-growing and hardy plants that fit excellently into a food forest.
Even if you aren’t currently growing silverthorn, keep an eye out – chances are, you can snag some berries locally. This is your window of opportunity – seize it!
This looks like a great idea for an edible hedge plant – what say you? 🙂
Is it dense enough to provide screening? Or do you have to trim it to keep it bushy, and will that drastically lower fruiting? Do they get scraggly over time? I've never actually seen one of these before…
If you let it grow unchecked, it creates a huge 15' tall mound of foliage. Nice for a far-off border privacy screen. It can be pruned back easily, though, and maintain a decent shape. My favorite hedges are the ones that include multiple species, though. Throw in a few of these, a few loquats, a few guavas, etc. and let them make an awesome mess. 😉
They do put out really scraggly long branches at certain times. Those can be trimmed (or you can lay them on the ground with a brick on top and start new plants). Once you spot your first silverthorn hedge, you'll start seeing them everywhere. It's a common plant here. The give-away is the silver underside to the leaves. Look for that.
A nitrogen fixer- great! Will Silverthorn grow in SW Florida (zone 10)? Is it thorny, and is it a bush or a tree? If it will grow in my zone, any idea where to find a start? Thanks
Good question. It's not "supposed" to grow down there, but it probably will. You can usually find them at ornamental landscape nurseries up here. If I manage to start cuttings up here I can also send you one.
I have very nosy neighbors and in four years, I have a beautiful fence. They will grow any and everywhere. If you don't eat the berries pull them off, put them where you want them to spread and watch them grow. The State of Florida ask that you not plant them. But they are an awesome fix to bad neighbors. PS make sure you leave room for them to spread, or they will choke out you other plants.
does anyone have any seeds – i was only able to buy autumn olives seeds – i cannot find silver thorn seeds anywhere? email@example.com
You can usually find plants at ornamental plant nurseries in mid-north Florida. Seeds, no.
I found silver throne plants at wallmart and got three plants, have never found them there again, probably as they have been placed on invasive species list, they grew into a 15ft high single plant and I have been successfully started dozens of plants from cuttings, just place cuttings in soil pot keep moist in shady area, my property in n. fl. has very poor sugar sand which kills nearly anything I plant,these thrive here with no care at all,,they show no damage from frost and don’t lose thier leaves in winter,insects and critters won’t touch them,amazing privacy hedge,,
They’re really a wonderful plant – I’m glad you were able to get them. Congrats on starting them from cuttings. I’ve never had much luck in that regard.
I have had even better results this summer starting silver Thorne cuttings, after soaking cuttings over night in water I place 3 cuttings in each one gallon pot using potting soil containing fertilizer, dip the wet cut end in a root start hormone,make holes in soil so the powered coating doesn’t get removed by just pushing it into soil, use grass cuttings or hay as mulch to help keep soil moist,keep pot WET in shady location,when roots start coming out bottom they are ready to plant,you will be amazed how they don’t even wilt, a few will slowly drop leaves and die, that’s why multiple cuttings per pot and result in a thicker fuller hedge sooner,,,
Great – thank you for the field-testing!
Hey David I just love your website! I am looking to get this silverberry shrub. I too cant find it anywhere because of it being listed as invasive. I think I have seen it before though but can’t remember where. I wanted to reach out since you lived in gainesville maybe you know a place near me that would have it? I’m in Orlando FL any help is greatly appreciated! Thanks David! I have been learning about gardening the last few years and because of you I haven’t fallen flat on my face nearly as much as I would have at this point haha
Please don’t plant this plant: it’s a terrible invasive exotic that’s hard to control or remove once it gets going. If you grow it under trees like the large live oaks in my yard which have low-growing limbs it will climb up into the branches and it’s very hard to remove because the thorns get snagged in the small branches and it’s like they’re knotted together. How about some nice native blueberries if you want a fruiting shrub? Or wax myrtle if you want a hedge?
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